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BMW M140i: A burbling sensation of rear-wheel action

2017-04-24 09:07

WHAT A MACHINE: The BMW M140i requires full attention when tackling the open road. Image: Warren Wilson

Charlen Raymond

Cape Town - There is and probably will always be one BMW that will get tongues wagging more than most; the M3 (and of late its two-door sibling the M4).

But those M-badged performance vehicles, despite being utterly brilliant as driver’s cars, are out of reach, at least financially, for most South Africans.

They are fun, engaging and deliver smiles by the bucketload but few will ever get to experience true M-power.

Fortunately, BMW has another model a bit lower down its ranks, the M140i. It might not have the same pedigree nor performance of an M3/M4 but it's still one heck of a vehicle.

The numbers

At R652 802 the M140i automatic is roughly R440 000 cheaper than an M3. Sure, it still costs more than R600k but at least you won't have to spend more than a million on a performance car.

Image: Warren Wilson

In addition, measured against its rivals - such as the Mercedes-AMG A45 and Ford Focus RS - the Beemer undercuts both vehicles in terms of price. Many might argue that you are still paying a pretty penny for a 'hot hatch but keep in mind that this is an M-car... Maybe not a full-blooded M-baged monster but one nonetheless.

READ: Here's why the BMW 140i is not meant to be a family car

Under the bonnet it uses BMW’s familiar 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine. Thanks to the addition of a turbo, power peaks at 250kW/500Nm. A 0-100km/h sprint is dispatched in 4.6sec and top speed is rated at 250km/h. Also it can comfortably seat five passengers. 

On paper this BMW makes sense from a performance point of view. The automaker does claim a fuel economy of 7.1 litre/100km but given the nature of the car you're probably not going to achieve that. And here’s why…

Hit the road, Jack!

Next to the gear stick is a button which allows you to switch driving modes. It ranges from fuel-conservation (yeah right), to  Sport and Sport+ modes, capable of transforming this hatchback into an utter brute on the road. In Sport+ traction takes a nap and it’s all up to the driver to reign-in that power. Disclaimer - because life is valued and environments are seldom controlled unless you're on a race track, the use of standard Sport mode is highly advised.

Plant the throttle and the diminutive BMW will lunge forward with menace and absolutely no trepidation. It is fearless beyond compare and has no problem bringing its rear out. Even in Sport the rear will step out. It keeps drivers on their toes, it turns knuckles white and it makes you forget to breath. Overall, you'll feel alive, on the edge, and, dare I say it, vibrant.

Despite having a turbo bolted on, the engine still has that deep, throaty sound that accompanies BMW’s larger engines. It reacts with a rawness to throttle inputs and its dual exhausts respond in kind.

The car feels alive because of two reasons; 1) it's the same engine that’s used in the BMW 340i and 440i, and 2) the body of the 1 Series is a lot lighter than its larger siblings. What this means is that with all that power being sent to the rear wheels, the M140i can feel as if it has a too much power than it can handle. BMW enthusiasts will not find this to be a problem but novice drivers, especially those handling a fast and powerful Beemer for the first time, should be very cautious.

Though a picture of a “ready to rumble” BMW is painted, this car will reward its driver with the athleticism the German automaker is known for. The company’s expertise in driving dynamics did not fall by the wayside when this car drafted, scaled and built.

It still has everything petrol heads have come to expect of a performance BMW.

My colleague Janine van der Post actually summed it beautifully when she said: "But as was foretold in 'Spiderman', "with great power comes great responsibility. The car is so responsive, and much lighter than larger M-cars, it could mean driving dangerously if you don't know what you're doing behind the wheel."

Image: Warren Wilson

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